atomical NEWS ON NUCLEAR SCIENCE Its use has grown globally by 200 per cent in the last two years but many Australian patients are currently missing out. ANSTO, however, will soon play a major role in helping to increase PET services for Australians. The power of PET imaging is that when combined with CT scans it can enable earliest diagnosis of cancer development even before tumours have formed. Treatment is also able to be monitored and a drug can be substituted at an early stage if it is not effectively targeting the desired location or growth. PET is a state-of-the-art nuclear medicine diagnostic technique which has produced significant advances in the diagnosis of cancer and other major medical conditions, as it allows doctors to see disease at its earliest stage and precisely monitor treatment. Last year it was estimated that thousands of patients in NSW alone could not access PET treatment. Having this new production facility will help provide the necessary product to allow expansion of these services not only in NSW but other states within transport distance. FDG has a half-life of 110 minutes, meaning that it loses half of its activity every 110 minutes and means it cannot be imported. The shortage of facilities is due to cost, highlighted in the current debate between Federal and State governments regarding the Medicare rebate for PET procedures which in turn affects State funding to build new PET facilities. ANSTO is at the forefront of the PET revolution joining in a $10 million deal with global medical giant, Siemens Medical Solutions, to build a new PET (positron emission tomography) nuclear medicine production facility consisting of two state-of-the-art cyclotrons at ANSTO. The ground-breaking deal means that the availability of PET treatment could potentially increase, due to PET supply costs decreasing. This is because hospitals currently need to have their own cyclotron to supply a PET facility with the necessary radiopharmaceuticals, adding to expenses. The new facility at ANSTO means on-site cyclotrons at hospitals will not be necessary. Since this is a commercial venture the product will also have to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Hospital-produced radiopharmaceuticals do not need TGA clearance. The deal also gives ANSTO access to Siemens’ exclusive international PET radiopharmaceuticals network (PETNET), which consists of 46 PETNET centres that enable hospitals to diagnose and treat patients and supporting institutions to undertake research into next generation radiopharmaceuticals. The contract with Siemens will allow ANSTO to build twin cyclotrons at its site in Sydney’s south and produce the short-lived radiopharmaceutical FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose) used in PET scanning. Currently PET facilities use hospital-based cyclotrons or an outside supplier to produce FDG for a restricted number of patients. The new facility will make FDG available to the wider community. “Having two cyclotrons at ANSTO will allow it to produce other short-lived isotopes for research while ensuring a consistent supply of FDG to clinical patients.” Siemens will also contribute to a joint radiopharmaceutical research program with ANSTO. Australians will benefit from this unique innovative partnership. These critical radiopharmaceuticals will be more readily available, and in turn more research can be conducted. That research could lead to better ways of diagnosing and treating disease. PET facilities currently exist in the following hospitals: NSW: Royal Prince Alfred Hospital*, Liverpool Hospital, Newcastle Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital and Westmead Hospital. VIC: Peter MacCallum DECEMBER 2007 PET revolution changing the face of Australian cancer treatment PET is the fastest growing medical diagnostic imaging technique in the world and was recently recognised in Federal Government research as the best option for diagnosis and treatment in Australia. Cancer Institute*, Austin Health and Medical Imaging Australia*, Monash Medical Centre. QLD: Royal Brisbane Hospital*, Wesley Hospital*. WA: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital*. South Australia: Royal Adelaide Hospital. Those with an asterisk have hospital-based cyclotrons. Two Siemens Eclipse cyclotrons like this one will be built at ANSTO PET scans allow doctors to see diseases at their earliest stages. ANSTO is at the forefront of the PET revolution
>> SCIENTIST PROFILE Nuclear Matters Dr Amparo Lopez Rubio Branch of science: I’m a food scientist working in the Bragg Institute at ANSTO. The Bragg Institute is the strongest neutron and X-ray scattering group in Australia. Qualifications: I have a Bachelor of Agricultural Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain), a Master in Food Science and Technology from the University of Gent (Belgium) and a PhD in Food Science and Technology in the field of polymers for food packaging. Most of my PhD work consisted of studying structural changes taking place in the polymeric materials as a consequence of food preservation processes, and assessing whether they could compromise the quality and/or safety of packaged food products. During this period I became familiar with analytical tools mainly used by physicists and became increasingly interested in understanding the atomic and nanoscale changes responsible for large scale phenomena. I also worked a little bit in the area of active packaging (materials capable of actively protecting the packaged food by release or absorption of substances) and spent some time in the University of Technology of Stockholm, Sweden, developing biodegradable nanocomposites of starch reinforced with cellulose fibres. Your work: I work on the Food Science project – a joint project between ANSTO and CSIRO. This project aims to apply neutron scattering techniques to the study of food structures with the objective of correlating them with the functional properties of the products. My main interest is introducing these powerful characterisation techniques in the food science and technology area, in which their use has been quite limited. The small angle neutron scattering instrument is going to be key in this kind of research, allowing the specific analysis of different phases within the food structures. Complementary techniques like SAXS, XRD, FT-IR, and electron microscopy are also being used. Within the Food Science Project, I’ve been mainly involved in understanding “resistant starch”, which in a fraction of starch not digested in the small intestine of individuals with associated health benefits like lowering of the glycaemic index, weight regulation and even prevention of colorectal cancer. With whom do you collaborate in your collection and analysis of data? The “resistant starch” work is a quite ambitious project involving several research groups with different areas of expertise. We are collaborating with various CSIRO centres, like Plant Industry in Canberra, where they are genetically modifying wheats to improve functionality, Food Science Australia in Sydney, responsible for the different processing of the samples and Human Nutrition in Adelaide, where they perform the nutritional studies. The structural analysis of the starches takes place both at the University of Queensland and here in ANSTO, where the capabilities and the people are really helping me to make this part of the Project a great success. For more information on careers in science go to www.careersinscience.gov.au A new exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney invites the public to take a look at all things nuclear in our lives. The ANSTO sponsored exhibition called Nuclear Matters has interactive exhibits that promote understanding of nuclear issues from nuclear medicine and science, to the ongoing power debate. Mr Andrew Humpherson, ANSTO’s General Manager Public Affairs, said the exhibition will give the public a unique opportunity to gain a greater understanding about the role nuclear science plays in our lives. “The exhibition will give people the chance to really come to grips with what nuclear science is and understand that radioactivity, for example, is part of our lives and around us all the time. “Nuclear tools can help us understand many things, from how our climate works or how a particular material responds to heat, cold or other external forces, at the atomic level. Nuclear science is key in helping us understand the world around us and its role grows year by year as science and knowledge develop,” he said. The exhibition is divided into five areas: 1. Nuclear basics; 2. Nuclear in our lives including nuclear medicines and internal body scanning; 3. Nuclear sciences; 4. Nuclear power generation; and 5. Nuclear perspectives which includes changes in social attitudes over the last century. Included in the exhibition are interactive models of the new OPAL nuclear reactor, quizzes to test knowledge of different isotopes, a nuclear medicine interactive where users choose which scan is most appropriate in a given condition, short films about ANSTO and its scientists and many other displays. >> RADIOISOTOPE FOCU Iodine -131 is a radioisotope made in ANSTO’s nuclear reactor, which is used in nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat a range of diseases, such as thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).
ANSTO Reveals Past History of East Antarctic Ice Sheet The East Antarctic Ice Sheet, centred on the South Pole, is the world’s single largest mass of ice. It is 3000 km across and up to four kilometres deep at the Pole. If it were to melt, sea levels would rise by 60 metres. Even if only 10 per cent were to melt due to global warming, the consequences would be catastrophic. Scientists, however, have discovered the ice sheet should stay cold enough to prevent significant melting. The ANSTO team, lead by Dr David Fink, was part of a multinational collaboration with the University of Victoria in NZ and Macquarie university which collected rock samples from various mountainous locations in Antarctica for analysis using ANSTO’s ANTARES accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) facility . The rocks collected were transported by advancing ice and then released on mountain slopes when the ice began to recede after the last glacial maximum about 20,000 – 15,000 years ago. The AMS analyses determined how long ago they were deposited and their altitude enabled calculation of how thick the Antarctic ice sheet was at that time. David said the results were surprising. “We were interested to find that the coastal ice sheet had thinned by 200 to 350m over the period from 13,000 years to 7,000 years ago but had not changed since that time. Its latitudinal extent today is similar to what it was at the end of the last ice age and not 200 km further north as previously believed,” he said. “These changes in the ice sheet volume were probably due to changing global sea levels driven by melting of the Northern Hemisphere ice sheets. The timing of global sea-level stability six to 7,000 years ago matches the youngest exposure ages measured by the ANSTO team. This strongly suggests that sealevel change controls ice sheet reduction rather than temperature changes.” Overall the results indicated that earlier estimates of the size and thickness of the ice sheet based on glaciological modelling had been dramatically overestimated. At another location 600 kilometres inland, the ice sheet was stable and had started to thin about 5000 years after the last glacial maximum. “This suggested that coastal parts of Antarctica will respond to warming faster than the more interior sections of the Antarctica ice sheet which ANSTO Scientist Dr. David Fink studies the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is controlled by movement of colder air masses and thus more resistant to global warming than previously expected. “As the largest and coldest, the East Antarctic Ice Sheet will be the last to be affected by warming. Rising sea level will mainly be contributed to by the retreat of the smaller, more unstable West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, glacier melting, and thermal expansion of the oceans,” concluded David. ANSTO’s research activities in Antarctica are supported through the CCASH project – Cosmosgenic Climate Archives in the Southern Hemisphere. The objective of the project is to better understand past climate change in this part of the world in a bid to better predict future trends. ANSTO is the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation S Radioisotope Focus – Iodine-131 Since the 1940’s, iodine-131 given orally has been a commonly accepted procedure for treatment of benign and malignant conditions of the thyroid. With a half-life of 8.02 days, Iodine-131 is a desirable choice for nuclear medicine procedures, because it doesn’t stay radioactive for too long. The radioisotope emits beta and gamma radiation but is essentially completely removed from the body within three months. Iodine-131 is used for a number of medical procedures, including the treatment of residual thyroid cancer, metastatic disease after thyroidectomies and to monitor and trace the flow of thyroxin from the thyroid. Iodine 131 is also used in the diagnosis of abnormal liver function, renal (kidney) blood flow and urinary tract obstruction. Iodine-131 is provided by ANSTO to nuclear medicine centres around Australia as sodium iodide in either an injectable solution or therapy capsules. Diagnostic tests exploit the mechanism of absorption of iodine by the normal cells of the thyroid gland. Since iodine is a natural substance your thyroid uses to make thyroid hormone, when administered, radioactive iodine such as Iodine-131 is collected by the thyroid gland in the same way as non-radioactive iodine. Since the thyroid gland is the only area of the body that uses iodine, the radioisotope does not travel to any other areas of the body, and any that is not taken up by thyroid cells is eliminated from the body, primarily in urine. It is therefore a safe and effective way to test and treat thyroid conditions. When used to test thyroid function, only a very small amount of Iodine 131 is used so that the thyroid gland is not damaged and normal thyroid functioning is not affected. Pictures of the thyroid gland are then obtained at varying time periods (hours to days) after the ingestion of these substances to see how well the thyroid gland is functioning. www.ansto.gov.au
>> WHAT DOES IT DO? ANTARES The Australian National Tandem Accelerator for Applied Research (ANTARES) is a particle accelerator which allows scientists to find out what elements are present in samples of all sorts of materials: biological, geological and man-made. This amazing accelerator has provided information about climate change, dated Charlemagne’s Crown, uncovered secrets from the Venetian lagoon, settled controversies about Aboriginal rock art, and used buried Huon pine tree logs in Tasmania to learn about how the oceans and atmosphere exchange greenhouse carbon dioxide. The 10MV Tandem Accelerator was commissioned in 1991. Since then the accelerator has been continuously upgraded. ANTARES is now a stateof-the-art Ion Beam Analysis and Accelerated Mass Spectrometry facility. Ion beam analysis fires a fast moving beam of ions (positively or negatively charged atoms) at a sample being studied. When a high energy ion beam hits the sample, it interacts with the sample’s atoms in a number of complex ways which provide the basis for sample analysis. The point of ion beam analysis is to find out about the nature of the sample – what type of elements make it up and how atoms are distributed throughout it. Accelerator mass spectrometry is a technique used by scientists to detect minute quantities of radioisotopes in samples. ANSTO scientists use this capability on ANTARES to carbon date objects, as well as analyse samples in climatology research, nuclear safeguard studies and geological dating. ANTARES has carried out hundreds of carbon dating projects to help establish historical dates. Carbon dating is based on the known decay rate of the unstable isotope 14C - just one of the isotopes that can be detected by ANTARES - which is a radioactive form of carbon dioxide. Radiocarbon enters the food chain when it is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. When a living organism dies, the carbon exchange stops and the residual 14C concentration in organic samples can be calculated to establish the likely age of the carbon sample. One project, in collaboration with the University of NSW, provided information about the activity of the lagoon in Venice, by investigating the ages of microscopic sea creatures found in sediments. The investigation suggested reservoir age in the lagoon of Venice is as high as 1300 years. In another project, ANTARES was used to authenticate the Iron Crown of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. Made of gold and iron and set with precious stones, the crown is held in the Cathedral at Monza, near Milan, in Italy. Cathedral authorities, working with scientists from the universities of Milan and Genoa, wished to accurately establish the age of the crown as part of the celebrations of the cathedral’s 14th centennial. The high precision analysis performed at ANSTO dated the age of the Iron Crown at between 700 and 780 AD. The dating is close to the time in which Charlemagne lived. ANTARES is a valuable scientific tool that is used by both Australian and international scientists. The southern end of the large ANTARES tandem accelerator MORE INFORMATION If you would like to subscribe to or be removed from our mailing list, or receive our quarterly e-magazine called Velocity, please email email@example.com or call 02 9717 3111. This newsletter is printed on recycled paper manufactured from 70% alternative fibre, Bagasse, obtained from agricultural waste from the sugar cane industry and 30% Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) bleached pulps from well managed forests. Manufactured using the ISO 14001 environmental management system. Recyclable and biodegradable. PP255003/08687